Lawmaker briefs FAMU on changes to Good Samaritan Act

Silvers meets with faculty and students Tuesday about House Bill 595
Photo Submitted by Tracey Belizaire

Student leaders, faculty and members of Florida A&M’s police department joined state Rep. David Silvers Tuesday in the Student Senate chambers to learn about a new state law, House Bill 595.

HB 595 is an extension to the 911 Good Samaritan Act of 2012, which created immunity for someone who sought out medical assistance for a drug overdose. HB 585 amends the 911 Good Samaritan Act by extending immunity for use or possession of drugs, violation of pretrial release, a person seeking aid for an alcohol overdose ad more. 

“The Board of Governors wanted to expand on that medical advocacy to alcohol specifically for individuals under 21,” Silvers, a Democrat from West Palm Beach, said. 

The Board of Governors deemed it a priority after the 2017 alcohol poisoning death of FSU student Andrew Coffey, the victim of an off-campus fraternity event. Silvers recalled a similar incident while he was a student at the University of Florida, and explained why he chose to sponsor the bill. 

“This is a personal issue to me,” Silvers said. “When the Board of Governors asked me to be the sponsor of this bill I said yes. I’ll make it my absolute mission to make it in one session.” 

There were several questions and concerns addressed Tuesday afternoon. FAMU Police Chief Terrence M. Calloway shared his worries, saying the bill was not clear enough for consumers. 

“I just think that when we are putting it out it needs to have some clarity to it,” said Calloway. “They need to understand that when we put this out the medical portion needs to be inclusive with the bill information as well.”

During the roundtable students and staff voiced their concerns regarding the bill’s details and if police training for this legislation has been established. Silvers informed everyone that the bill is still being developed and the point of the Tuesday’s event was to collect feedback to bring back to perfect the bill. 

As far as informing students, FAMU SGA and other student leaders came up with ideas to spread the word about the bill such as infusing it into the curriculum, posting via social media and even having pamphlets on shuttles that transport students to parties. 

The substance of HB 595 has been implemented in other states such as Ohio, Texas, and Alabama. Silvers encouraged everyone to spread the word about HB 595. He believes that it would save lives. FAMU is one of the few public universities Silvers has visited. He said he will be at other public and private universities in Florida. 

Political science student Reilly Stoner believes the bill is important for students and said he appreciates Silvers coming to FAMU to communicate with students and faculty directly.

“It’s an important piece of legislation to help our students feel safe on campus,” said Stoner. “It’s important for people like us to give our feedback to our lawmakers.”

The bill was approved by the governor on June 7, and it took effect on July 1.